The dreaded potato blight — that rot black fungus that once spread so much misery throughout Europe — took hold of our tomatoes last week. Had to destroy around two-thirds of our crop, wiping out my dreams of an immense Arabiatta stockpile. We managed to save a decent amount of uninfected green tomatoes though, and with a little luck they'll ripen indoors. The rest of the crop was farther away in the garden and seems to have been protected.. so far.
Blight is always a risk when you're growing both potatoes and tomatoes in the same space, although its possible the fungus/microorganism is already lurking in the land even when you aren't growing potatoes. It's a common risk so it wasn't entirely unexpected.. it's especially likely when you're growing tomatoes outdoors and not in a greenhouse where it's easier to control the environment. Unfortunately Sweden often also has the perfect moist and cool conditions for the Blight to prosper and take hold.
This unfortunate event meant we had to harvest our small potato patch earlier than we intended. The rest of the growing spaces are giving an abundance of produce so losing out on the full potential of these two crops isn't so bad. This is precisely why we — colloquially, in permaculture and growing circles — talk about cultivating a mix of crops, in an effort to build in resilience through variety, in case several crops have bad years or are lost entirely.
Overall, our project for this first season in the house/on the land was to have a functional kitchen garden — or, a garden that doesn't make you self-reliant, but provides a steady stream of daily ingredients — and we've easily succeeded my expectations there. Thankfully our freezer box is now installed out in the barn, so we can start preserving things like soft-fruits, jams and sauces. A lot of vegetables. especially root veg, will keep for up to around six months in a Jordkällare (EN: earth cellar or root cellar) garlic and onions will keep for even longer.
Further berry dispatches...
These bowls represent about 15-minutes gathering in the bushes crowded directly around the house. Mostly blueberries, red-currants and raspberries. Probs some gooseberries hidden underneath too.
The majority of the dense 'berry rich' outskirts of the forest remain untouched, because right now we don't have the space to store them all if we pick them. And lets be real, you can only eat so many berries every day! Our precious kitchen space is limited, and the fridge is already filled with jam.. and my partner keeps making more jam. Jam jam jam.
“Gonna make some more jam today” they exclaim, as I write this.
We got electricity installed in the barn the other week. This involved a laborious process of digging a trench from the house to said barn so we could run a cable across, occasionally having to manoeuvre through the fucking granite bedrock of the flat mountain and its impenetrable compressed layers of ice-age rock. This kind of landscape is why this area of Sweden has traditionally been so poor.. it's really, really difficult to work and farm land that's shot through with the rocky deposits of ice-age glaciers — but it's also a big part of why I love the landscape here so much.
Anyway. We did it, so now we have power in the barn, which means we can install a freezer box in there, making it much easier for us to store and preserve things like soft fruits in the future.
We still a pile of tree stumps over by the woodshed, and a ton of uneven scrap wood in the barn. Lately I've been combining them into these scrappy benches and tables to scatter around the garden, meadow and forest. They give us plenty of spots to sit and hang out in.. acting like navigational points.. wiring up the land.
This knife — like all my tools — was left behind by the previous owner and family. It'll probably be one of the first items I officially catalogue for the museum, as it's one of the first objects I picked up when we first came to view the house.
My woodworking skills are the bare minimum, but even I can manage to sand and oil.. we're using raw linseed oil for this, which takes longer to dry but is the most traditional method.
Updates from our first two growing spaces. In general things are looking good, with no real disappointments besides some slow developing aubergines and broad beans that didn't survive the dry spell [update: actually it turns out that half of them did survive!].
In these two spaces we've sown a mix of garlic, onion, tomatoes, mangetout, broad/runner/french & soya beans, corn, cabbage, beetroot, carrot, parsnip, turnip, artichoke, celeriac, zucchini & kohlrabi.
Elsewhere in the garden we have a potato patch, a smaller area for more beans, and about 40—50 other tomato plants, root veg, aubergine, wild garlic, peppers, chillis, asparagus and artichoke planted around amongst the wildflowers, wild strawberries and rasperberries, shrubs, fruit tree's and old ornamental garden plants.
The Swedish for this kind of practice is “Samplantering”. It gives a dense, lush forest garden vibe to the space, and it's fucking killer for biodiversity and getting your shit pollinated.
Have settled on Sigurd Knight / Sigurd Claymore from the always wonderful as the typeface for the Sofiebergsvägen project.
The above is a combination of stylistic sets, trying to maintain a balance between the more ornate elements on offer. I'm not sure I've ever published anything that didn't use a sans-serif for the title — or at least a heavy slab — but I really wanted to work with a font with a different kinda display character for this. Sigurd is my perfect match, plus I love the design info behind it:
“Inspired by the hero of the Nibelungen Saga, Siegfried, Sigurd is a font family gathering its inspiration in the shapes of swords and feudal armours. It aims to be an elegant font family yet deeply strong in its design construction. The design process started from an old scrap of letters found in an obscure set of the Eda stories.”
Very minimal kerning applied so far. I'll come back to that later when I have the cover layout set for print.
Honestly, it's a struggle to get anything done outside once the wild strawberries are out. They grow everywhere and I swear that for every one you eat, three more appear in their place the following day.
The cherries have also ripened this week. Most of the treeline from the meadow up to the fence around the garden is dense with cherry tree's, so we don't have to fight the blackbirds too much to gather them. There's almost too many to go around!
Midsummer evening walk.. crossing boundaries.. walls and trails and tracks...
Divination customs surround Midsummer, appearing in folklore records across the European regions. The rituals are often variations on sacred flower gathering rites, involving the collection of dew drops, or the picking of a certain number of herbs and wildflowers, followed by a small ritual which promises to grant the practitioner a glimpse of the future. Given the fertility connections at the Summer Solstice and Midsummer, this is often divination centred on love, marriage, children and families.
Here in Sweden the most well documented custom involves silently gathering nine different flowers whilst walking backwards, then sleeping with them beneath your pillow. In some variations the flowers must be gathered over three different crossroads, whilst others involve the backwards crossing of a matching number of physical boundaries, such as streams, walls and fences. The more elaborate practices share similarities with the ritual of the Årsgang which is also recorded as being performed on Midsummer eve for divination purposes.
With all our nearby streams and paths, hedges and walls, old abandoned roads and local railway tracks — plus our abundance of wild flowers and herbs — I'm already thinking about how to construct a personal variant of the flower gathering walk; weaving a living tradition for future Midsummer celebrations.
There's a good article going into much more detail on Swedish Midsummer rituals and folklore here The Magic of Midsummer Night, Institute for Language and Folklore. The text is in Swedish but big-tech-translate does a passing job on it if you're interested in exploring the topic further.